€1.5 million to renovate historic Laois courthouse

Lynda Kiernan

Reporter:

Lynda Kiernan

€1.5 million to renovate  historic Laois courthouse

Borris-in-Ossory courthouse

 A long awaited restoration of the vacant Borris-in-Ossory courthouse is on Laois County Council’s to-do list for the next three years.

The 200 year old courthouse has not had a sitting since the 1950s but had been renovated for use as council offices. It is now boarded up with a growingly dilapidated appearance, with multiple calls by councillors to restore and repurpose it.

The council has now included €1.587 million for this in their  €130 million Indicative Capital Programme 2021 to 2023, announced in mid December.

The fund will mostly be paid in a state grant, with the council paying €158,747 towards it.

Cllr Conor Bergin welcomed the plan.

“It depends on a Government grant of €1.5 million. It would make a huge difference to the community,” he said.

Cllr James Kelly suggests that the courthouse could become a business hub for the village, which is just off a junction to the M7 motorway.

“The building is ideally suited for an enterprise hub, right on the turnoff to the motorway, that would be of benefit to Borris-in-Ossory,” he said.

The Borris-in-Ossory Tidy Towns group placed raised stone flowerbeds around the building some years ago in efforts to improve its image. However in 2017, national Tidy Towns judges said they were “shocked” at the condition of the building which is a protected structure.  They particularly noted “very ugly” modern tubular railings on the front of the building which is boarded up. 

The building is listed as having 'regional importance' in the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. They describe the architectural details as follows:

"Detached five-bay two-storey former courthouse, built c.1828. Renovated, c.1990. Interior retains original fittings to courtroom. Now in use as County Council offices. Double-pitched and hipped slate roof with clay ridge tiles and nap rendered chimneystacks. Nap rendered walls with ruled and lined detail, painted, rusticated banded sandstone to ground floor end bays, panelled pilaster strips to first floor, projecting stone band to eaves, stringcourses, plait bands and blind recessed panels. Roughcast render over rubble stone to remainder. Square-headed window openings with sandstone sills, sandstone dressings and single-pane timber sash windows. Some blind window openings and oculi to ground floor with fixed-pane timber windows. Square-headed door opening with replacement timber panelled door, c.1980, with overlight. Stair Halls with limestone staircases having wrought iron balusters and curved timber handrail; Courtroom retaining original aspect with timber panelled fittings; marble fireplaces with scagliola panels and cast-iron surrounds; Cells with limestone architraves to door openings; Guardroom with cast-iron fireplace. Courthouse is set back from road in own grounds; tarmacadam forecourt to front. Section of cast-iron railings to site."